making room

I love the period between Christmas and New Year.  I am fortunate enough to be able to spend that week gently chilling at home.  After the hustle and bustle of the preparations for the festive season I enjoy the sameness about each day and forgetting which day of the week it is.  Many years ago when the girls were still at home we had a huge blackboard (about 3 x 2 ft) in the kitchen upon which we wrote shopping lists, messages etc.  After I we had eaten Christmas lunch I would ceremoniously wipe the board clean and write in capital letters “MUMMY’S DAY OFF – FOOD IN THE FRIDGE!”

I don’t need to put the message out quite so clearly now, but the message is the same.  For the next day or so meals are assemblies of existing preparations, Mummy is going to knit/read/walk/watch old movies.  Because I am more still, there is less running around, I have time to have a closer look at my surroundings and notice how they have changed over the year.  What has gone, but more often, what has crept in.  Time for a whizz round.  Not a deep declutter of the kind that takes a couple of weeks at least, but a focus on one or two areas where accumulation has taken on epic proportions.

A few years ago whilst I was visiting my father in the States the girls and the Boss arranged for some beautiful waxed pitch pine shelves and bookcases to be built in the the sitting room as a Mothering Sunday present.  Because of the weird shape and history of our house (the original dates back to the 13th Century and bits have been added on all over the place over the years) we have a lot of doors and a lack of window sills and wall space for shelves.  For the first time ever I was able to display some of my precious carvings, silverware and photographs.  Books could come out of the dark and DVDs and CDs no longer made tall skyscraper skylines behind sofas and chairs.

However, as we all know, stuff expands to fill an empty space and as I was curled up with my knitting last night I knew that the DVDs and books in one corner of the sitting room just had to be cleared.

Two bin bags later it looks like this.  Not exactly minimalist (there was some discussion over some of the DVDs – they are now on a secret watch list and may yet have only a short time left in the house!), but there is now order and some space.

DSC_0234

Why not give a small corner a quick makeover, you won’t believe how much better it makes you feel.

DSC_0235

If you are struggling to decide what should stay and what should go, then turn to William Morris, he always has the answer;

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Love Gillie x

feeling festive in Riga

 

2018-12-02 16.56.06

The shops are not full of images of Father Christmas, the cafes and restaurants are not heaving with fairy lights.  Yet Riga feels a lot more festive than most cities in Western Europe.  Yes it does help that is is cold and everyone is wrapped up in big coats with fluffy hoods, that there is snow on the ground and there is a whopping great Christmas Tree in the square next to our hotel, but there is more too it than that.

We attended the lighting of the tree ceremony on Sunday.  As it was obviously all in Latvian we didn’t understand a word, except for the countdown.  I think that is universal.  There was no need for barriers, I think I saw two policemen, the small square was full of people enjoying the Christmas market, drinking Black Balsalm or hot chocolate and enjoying browsing the stalls.  There was no brash commercialism, just people having fun.

Before

 

2018-12-02 16.55.45

 

and after.

2018-12-02 17.17.53

Also, did you know that the first ever Christmas tree was from Riga?

I am feeling festive in Riga because there is no loud Christmas music blaring out of every shop, there are no plastic Father Christmases, no tinsel on every till.  Just a beautiful tree, a lovely market and other people feeling festive.

love Gillie x

 

 

wrapping presents zero-waste style

wrapping zero waste

Well if not entirely zero-waste then certainly considerably less wasteful than the norm.  This is my wrapping station.  It contains:

  • Magazines
  • Ribbon carefully saved year after year
  • Pretty scarves
  • Empty boxes saved year after year
  • Pretty bags saved year after year
  • Paper sugar/flour bags
  • Paper wrapping from Who Gives A Crap loo and kitchen paper
  • Gift tags made from old cards
  • Endless cups of tea!

To be fair I have been wrapping along these lines since I was a child.  I was trained  young to save the wrapping paper and ribbon and it was a family tradition to cut up the Christmas cards in January and reuse them as gift tags.  The collection of boxes and bags are thanks to the Boss who can’t stand wrapping and has always packaged presents the easy way!

One year I wrapped everything in brown paper and red ribbon.  I still have the ribbon and the last of the brown paper was used to send parcels to Bea while she was in Thailand last year.  But this year I have decided to go one step further.

Using magazines can be a bit of a challenge for larger presents as you have to use several sheets together.  Garden and lifestyle magazines are good sources of pretty photos.  Although do watch out – I wrapped one present in a picture of a sumptuous Christmas dinner – only to remember the recipient is vegetarian and probably wouldn’t appreciate the turkey and all the trimmings around their gift!

2017-12-15 12.22.48

This is the first year I have used fabric.  I sent the Boss down to the charity shop in search of pretty scarves.  It took a bit of practice and I am sure the Japanese experts are not too impressed with my Furoshiki but I’m pretty pleased with myself.

2017-12-15 12.25.56

I have spotted some elderly shooting stockings and kilt socks that I think might make some rather lovely bottle carriers too!

Love Gillie x

herb oil

2017-11-15 16.08.09

 

Yup it’s that time of year again.  Now we all know that a cute little baby elf will die every time somebody puts up a decoration or sings a carol before the beginning of December?  What you didn’t know that?  Shame about all those poor little elves.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t plan, in fact you need to plan, unless of course you a bloke with a woman who does all the planning for you.  Massive generalisation I know,  but if the cap fits …

Rather smugly I can say that present wise I am pretty much sorted.  Well, I still have to finish a pair of socks and start a cardigan but the rest is pretty much sorted.  Today was hamper day.  Some exceptionally lucky people are getting a little hamper of home made goodies.  What do you mean “poor sods I hope she doesn’t give them botulism”?!

Today was herb oil.  The lovely bottles originally contained a rather lovely Rosé from Provence.  For reasons of which I am unsure we only drank four bottles.  I may have to purchase some more.  Anyway, I originally bought the wine because I loved the bottle and I loved the glass stopper.  The wine was a pleasant bonus!

Wash and dry bottles and add herbs of your choice.  I tend to use stronger woody ones that can survive in the oil without curling up and looking manky! A whizz round the garden produced:

  • Rosemary
  • Bay leaves
  • Lemon thyme

To which I added:

  • Sliced garlic
  • Red peppercorns
  • Long peppercorns (also known as Indonesian peppercorns)
  • Penja black peppercorns
  • Juniper berry

Topped up with olive oil and sealed.  I’ll tie a pourer around the neck and they are all ready for the little hampers.

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

bits and bobs pumpkin coconut curry

I’ve never been a great one for Halloween (if anything I have always been more of a Samhain girl) so it surprised even me when now that the girls are all away at university I came home with a pumpkin today.  I had the urge to do a little carving.  I even found myself googling pumpkin carving ideas.  Wow, there are some serious artists out there.  I am not in that league.

This is a cat (just in case you weren’t sure and were embarrassed  to ask).

2017-10-31 17.42.24

So now I am faced with a lot of pumpkin flesh.  I am not a fan of pumpkin soup, there are far more exciting and tasty soups out there and if I had to choose a pudding pumpkin pie wouldn’t be top of the list.  And anyway even though I chose the smallest pumpkin I have enough flesh to make more pumpkin soups and pies than either of us will ever want.

We are eating down the freezer at the moment so in the spirit of make do with what I have I bring you Bits and Bobs Pumpkin coconut curry.  There is little in the way of measurements because this is a chuck it in and taste recipe.

  • Pumpkin flesh
  • Elderly mushrooms
  • Half a manky red pepper
  • What I could salvage from an almost dead aubergine
  • An onion
  • Some garlic cloves
  • A chunk of ginger
  • A red chilli
  • Tumeric
  • Tamarind paste
  • A tin of coconut milk
  • A tin of tomatoes
  • Some veg stock or water
  • Lime juice
  • Salt and Pepper

Chop the onion (I left mine reasonably chunky) ditto the rest of the veg. Chop/crush/grate the garlic and ginger and dice the chilli.

Soften the onion gently in oil (of your choice I used vegetable) in a large pan.  After a couple of minutes add the chili, garlic, ginger and a generous teaspoon of tumeric.  Continue to cook for another 3 or 4 minutes.  Add the rest of your vegetables (including that pumpkin flesh) and stir to cover them with the tumericy paste (at this point take lots of deep breaths, the smell is divine).  Add the tin of tomatoes, tin of coconut milk and enough water/veg stock to cover all that yummy veggie stuff.  Stir in a couple of teaspoons of tamarind paste and the juice of a lime.  Leave to simmer until you can’t wait and have to eat it.  I might add a dollop of sour cream.

2017-10-31 18.21.23

 

Happy Halloween and Samhain Blessings

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

boats, temples and cocktails

The plan was to get up early and head off to JJ Market.  The Boss and I woke at 8am but still rather jet lagged decided to have a little more snooze.  The girls had been out for cocktails – we discovered the note when we got up.  Which was a long time before they got up!  Poor old PT Volunteer has hardly touched any alcohol for six months.  She was a little the worse for wear!

Eventually we made it to the pier to get the hop on off ferry down the river.  PT Volunteer was not keen on the boat plan and got little sympathy from her sister (something to do with an incident whilst interailing and “just deserts”!).

First stop was Wat Arun.  Golden Buddhas and exquisite mosaics.

We were stopped by two young students who asked if we would take a short survey for a school project.  When asked how we would sum up Thailand in one word we both answered in unison “friendly”  which just about says it all.  I have traveled a lot, both back packing, luxury and everything in between and I am hard pressed to think of a single country which exudes welcome and friendliness so much.

We crossed over to the other side of the river with a view to visiting the Grand Palace but we had left it rather late and instead decided to take a long tail boat through the canals of Old Bangkok.  Hearing the news that she had another hour in a boat the PT volunteer began to pale visibly.  Again her sister failed to weep with sympathy.

It was a fascinating water stroll through the back streets of Bangkok.

Quick dash back to our apartment to change and a tuk tuk over to the other side of town for dinner with the PT Volunteer’s partner’s family who are also over visiting and two other volunteers who were over from Isaan en route to their own holidays.  Never has so much noise been made and so much food been eaten by only nine people.  We still managed to make room for a couple of cocktails at Cloud 47.

Tomorrow  we WILL be up early for JJ!

Love Gillie x

 

 

Save

Lessons from Dory … just keep swimming

How did you get along with the repurpose challenge?  For the final Friday challenge I repaired a photo frame that had been propped against a wall for eons and my knitting bowl that had a disagreement with the floor!  Not sure if it counted but I podded a bowlful of mangetout that had been allowed to grow on.  The peas are not great, a bit to marrow-fat for my liking but they made delicious soup and far better than putting them in the compost.  The chooks enjoyed burrowing for the handful I thew on the grass as well.

IMG_2946

This week has been Olympic week.  Especially exciting as we watched Duncan Scott who we have known since he was a wee tot win Silver medal in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay and set a new British record in the 100m freestyle.  The final for the latter is at 3.00 am UK time on Friday morning if you want to cheer him on!

 

Duncan Scott

L-R: James Guy, Duncan Scott, Dan Wallace, Stephen Milne (courtesy of Ian MacNicol)

Watching the Olympics it is easy to get caught up in the razzmatazz and excitement and forget about the all the hard work that goes into just getting there in the first place.  Duncan announced he wanted to swim in the Olympics when he was nine, that’s ten years of early starts, homework in the back of the car on the way to evening training.  Ten years of driving across the country to swim in qualifying heats.  Ten years of physical hard slog.  Furthermore it’s not just Duncan that had to make sacrifices, who do you think drove Duncan across the country, sacrificed family holidays for training and so on?  Then there are the sports clubs, the ones that train our Olympians.  They don’t run themselves, someone has to be official timer, keep the books, fundraise, all volunteers.  There is much more going on behind the scenes than we ever see on the screen.

So when you look at your plastic bags, or the recycling that didn’t make it to the recycling box; when you buy a takeaway because you are just too tired and too hungry to cook; when you look at all the stuff you have accumulated and wonder how on earth it got there, don’t worry, don’t give up.   It took ten years for Duncan to become an Olympian and he worked at it seven days a week, 365 days a year.  Nobody expects you to downsize, declutter, go plastic free, live off grid (delete as appropriate 🙂 ) seven days a week, 365 days a year.  You have other responsibilities, needs, goals, ideals to fit in as well.

Do what you can, maybe up the ante every now and then and nudge yourself on.  But don’t beat yourself up and give up because you haven’t achieved it all in a year.  Watch the Olympics and remind yourself that nothing is quite as easy as it may look and congratulate yourself on getting as far as you have already.

Love Gillie x